The intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday could be the moment when the Dolphins’ quarterback competition comes into focus, when a No. 1 receiver emerges and when a talented defense forges its identity.
Or, it could be just another practice, albeit in front a bigger crowd than normal.
If recent history is any guide, the best advice is this: Enjoy the mock game, held at Sun Life Stadium at 9:15 a.m., for what it is — a dress rehearsal for an exhibition game — and you won’t be disappointed.
Need a reminder why? Just look at the unofficial stats from one year ago.
Chad Henne went 11 for 17, threw for roughly 135 yards, three touchdowns and had just one interception. That’s a quarterback rating of 104.2.
And guess who caught all three touchdown passes: Brandon Marshall.
So much for past performance predicting future returns.
“[On Thursday,] we had 192 or 194 snaps of third-down [situations],” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “If one quarterback makes one good play on third-and-5 [Saturday], does that override the 48 other snaps? You’ve got to be careful about that.
“The body of work is more important.”
Said cornerback Richard Marshall: “You can’t put too much weight into it, because we’re not in an actual game setting.”
That said, coaches throughout the league hold these glorified games for a reason (and not just to give fans an early look at the team).
After seven months of nothing but drills and weightlifting, it’s the first chance they get to evaluate their team in a game situation, albeit in a controlled environment.
Want to evaluate along with them? Here are five story lines to follow — if you’re awake in time:Quarterback battle:
The principals (as if you don’t already know): the Incumbent (Matt Moore) against the Comeback Kid (David Garrard) against the Next Great Hope (Ryan Tannehill).
Philbin said Thursday they’re essentially even after Week 1 (although Garrard has looked superior to most observers outside the team), so whoever plays best will have the inside track to start Friday’s exhibition opener against Tampa Bay. Philbin reiterated Friday that he hopes to have a decision made heading into the third exhibition game, which is traditionally when the first units get the most work — although that isn’t “hard and fast.”
“Go out and get better,” Tannehill said, when asked what he wants to get out of Saturday. “To have a full live practice, it’s different. We’ll be able to get into more of a flow of the game.”A brave new (defensive) world:
These are just a few of the questions that come with defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s new system. And although the 4-3 defense in theory is less exotic than a three down-lineman front, no disciple of Marvin Lewis is just going to sit back and play Cover-2 in the secondary.
“We’ve got some guys up front who can rush the passer, some physical guys,” cornerback Vontae Davis said. “We’ve got some young talent, but it’s up to us to put it all together.”Playing time up for grabs:
Chad Johnson needs to translate a strong first week into dependable production. Receivers such as Legedu Naanee and Roberto Wallace have made the most of their opportunities (particularly with Brian Hartline out), but neither is guaranteed a roster spot. The clock is ticking for rookies B.J. Cunningham, Rishard Matthews and Jeff Fuller to prove they belong.Time to answer the Bell: Return of the Dolfans?
The Dolphins drew an average crowd of just 60,886 last year, fifth-worst in the NFL. Sun Life Stadium was just 81 percent filled to capacity. This scrimmage is the first true test of any renewed enthusiasm: It’s being held on a Saturday morning, and admission is free.